John Smith

Born - London, England

John Smith was born in London in 1952 and studied film at the Royal College of Art. Inspired in his formative years by conceptual art and structural film, but also fascinated by the immersive power of narrative and the spoken word, he has developed an extensive body of work that subverts the perceived boundaries between documentary and fiction, representation and abstraction. Known for their formal ingenuity, anarchic wit and oblique narratives, Smith’s meticulously crafted films rework and transform reality, playfully exploring and exposing the language of cinema.

Since 1972 Smith has made over fifty film, video and installation works that have been shown in independent cinemas, art galleries and on television around the world and awarded major prizes at many international film festivals. He received a Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award for Artists in 2011, and in 2013 he was the winner of Film London's Jarman Award. His solo exhibitions include Kate MacGarry, London (2016); Wolverhampton Art Gallery (2016); Museum of Contemporary Art, Leipzig (2015); Tanya Leighton Gallery, Berlin (2015, 2013, 2012 and 2010); Centre d'Art Contemporain de Noisy-le-Sec, Paris (2014); The Gallery, Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle upon Tyne (2014); Figge von Rosen Gallery, Cologne (2013); Kestnergesellschaft, Hanover (2012); Turner Contemporary, Margate (2012); Weserburg Museum for Modern Art, Bremen (2012); Uppsala Art Museum, Sweden (2011); PEER Gallery, London (2011); Pallas Projects, Dublin (2011) and Royal College of Art Galleries, London (2010. Major group shows include Invocable Reality, Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (2014); The Reluctant Narrator, Berardo Museum, Lisbon (2014); Constellations, Tate Liverpool (2013-14); Image Counter Image, Haus der Kunst, Munich (2012); Has The Film Already Started?, Tate Britain (2011-12); Berlin Biennial (2010); The Talent Show, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis and MoMA PS1, New York (2010); Venice Biennale (2007); A Century of Artists 'Film in Britain’, Tate Britain (2004); Live in Your Head: Concept and Experiment in Britain 1965-75, Whitechapel Gallery, London (2000) and The British Art Show, UK touring exhibition (1984). John Smith regularly presents his work in person and in recent years it has been profiled through retrospectives at film festivals in Oberhausen, Tampere, Leipzig, St. Petersburg, La Rochelle, Mexico City, Uppsala, Cork, Sarajevo, Regensburg, Stuttgart, Vilnius, Karlstad, Winterthur, Bristol, Hull and Glasgow.

 John Smith lives and works in London. He teaches part-time at the University of East London where he is Professor of Fine Art. His work is held in numerous collections including Arts Council England, Tate Gallery, Ella Fontanals-Cisneros, Kunstmuseum Magdeburg, Wolverhampton Art Gallery and Ferens Art Gallery, Hull. His films are distributed by LUX, London, Video Data Bank, Chicago and Light Cone, Paris. He is represented by Tanya Leighton Gallery, Berlin.

 "The films of John Smith conduct a serious investigation into the combination of sound and image, but with a sense of humour that reaches out beyond the traditional avant-garde audience. His films move between narrative and absurdity, constantly undermining the traditional relationship between the visual and the aural. By blurring the perceived boundaries of experimental film, fiction, and documentary, Smith never delivers what he has led the spectator to expect."

– Mark Webber, Leeds International Film Festival, 2000

“The films of John Smith are among the most widely seen and appreciated of the UK avant-garde. Rigorous in structure and highly crafted in making, they extend the logic of language to question the authority of the image and the word. Among the complex features of these films is perhaps an attempt to sidestep, in a knight’s move, Brecht’s critique of cinema, his 'fundamental reproach' that a film is 'the result of a production that took place in the absence of an audience'. In John Smith’s films, the spectator is a producer as well as a consumer of meaning, bound in to the process but simultaneously distanced from the ‘naturalness’ of the film dream.”

– A L Rees, 'Associations: John Smith and the Artists' Film in the UK', 2002


Artist Collection List

Title Year Runtime Collection
A State of Grace 2019 3 minutes 10 seconds Single Titles
Associations 1975 6 minutes 30 seconds Single Titles
B & B 2005 6 minutes Single Titles
Blight 1996 14 minutes Single Titles
Citadel 2020 16 minutes 5 seconds New Releases, Single Titles
Covid Messages 2020 22 minutes 16 seconds New Releases, Single Titles
Dad's Stick 2012 4 minutes 54 seconds Single Titles
Dirty Pictures 2007 14 minutes 24 seconds Single Titles
FEELINGS 2016 1 hour 37 minutes 17 seconds Curated Compilations
Flag Mountain 2010 8 minutes 5 seconds Single Titles
Frozen War 2002 11 minutes Single Titles
Gargantuan 1992 1 minute Single Titles
Hotel Diaries: John Smith 2005 1 hour 11 minutes 18 seconds Single Artist Compilations
John Smith: Program 1 2002 48 minutes Single Artist Compilations
John Smith: Program 2 2002 1 hour 21 minutes Single Artist Compilations
Jour de Fête 2017 1 minute 12 seconds Single Titles
Lost Sound 2001 28 minutes Single Titles
Museum Piece 2004 12 minutes 23 seconds Single Titles
Om 1986 4 minutes Single Titles
Pyramids/Skunk 2007 16 minutes Single Titles
Regression 1999 17 minutes Single Titles
Six Years Later 2007 9 minutes 20 seconds Single Titles
Slow Glass 1991 40 minutes Single Titles
Song for Europe 2017 3 minutes 28 seconds Single Titles
Steve Hates Fish 2015 4 minutes 42 seconds Single Titles
The Black Tower 1987 24 minutes Single Titles
The Girl Chewing Gum 1976 12 minutes Single Titles
The Kiss 1999 5 minutes Single Titles
The Waste Land 1999 5 minutes Single Titles
Throwing Stones 2004 10 minutes 55 seconds Single Titles
Twice 2020 2 minutes 32 seconds New Releases, Single Titles
unusual Red cardigan 2011 12 minutes 46 seconds Single Titles
White Hole 2014 6 minutes 43 seconds Single Titles
Who Are We? 2016 3 minutes 38 seconds Single Titles
Worst Case Scenario 2003 18 minutes Single Titles